Ok, first one. Here we go: a memoir of sorts in the guise of reviews of shows, mostly ones I’ve played or as in this case gone to see.
Having recently relocated to East 14th Street in Manhattan back in June, I’m just beginning to get out to shows and catch up with friends. One of those is Todd Perlmutter, former Blue Man Group Creative Director, Producer and Drummer “flamboyant” (say that in French) aka Captain Rock. We’re neighbors of a feather now as he lives on the Lower East Side. Todd has been playing with a Surf Rock band called The Cameramen led by Chris Dyas. They were both behind the genius of the band Orangutang.
Orangutang is one of my favorites, especially the album Dead Sailor Acid Blues.
Unfortunately, due to some kind of music business tragedy the band was consigned to the nether regions of a bleak purgatory where all unsung genius resides. Although, I only saw the band and Chris once at the Rat in Boston, I consider myself a big fan. Todd is an incredibly powerful drummer and they both live and breathe music as easy as a bike ride in the park.
She made another amazing pizza (Chorizo, Pineapple, and Jalepeno with Smoked Cheddar) for dinner and afterward I arrived at the venue, Otto’s Shrunken Head, which is just across the street from our apartment. It was a bit dark and rainy but I was thankful for the break from the city heat and humidity.
Otto’s is a small divy tiki bar with all the chintzings – plastic Easter Island Head figurines and pineapple light strings. True to form, like most all places musicians frequent there was what modern philosophers lovingly call a Suppressive Person afoot, and Otto’s had its own resident SP, in this case the door guy. He asked for ID which I produced and he scanned. While handing him my ID I asked if there was a door charge. I didn’t ask you for a door charge, I asked for your ID he barked back. Yes, right I replied, I was just wondering if there was a door charge. There’s never a door charge he barked again. Good to know I said and stepped past him like you might move when you are deftly avoiding dog shit on the sidewalk.
It was just after 10PM and I found Todd and Chris between the bar and the back room where the stage was. Todd said he was on the verge of a huge immersive musical production in New Orleans, and that his father was in hospice in Florida and that he was flying there the next day, and getting married upstate in a week. Always a full life. After exchanging other pleasantries, and being re-introduced to Chris (and me telling him I’m a big fan), meeting a few other friends, and a drink – Jameson of course, we passed through to the back room to catch the headliner French Surf Rock band Les Agamemnonz.
Usually the headliner would go on last but sometimes as in this case going on late is less attractive. So, in truth, this can really only be about their set, because I just stayed for the beginning of The Camermen’s set, having some duties at home at midnight.
Les Agamemnonz was exactly what you might expect in a French Surf Rock band: looked like two sets of brothers, one set with long stringy hair and the other with short existential hair. For more info on the name and Agamemnon, check out the wiki page – hope these guys don’t get killed on their return home…
And, oh, they all wear bold colored tunics and play barefoot!
The music was great, intelligent, well crafted, sophisticated, and listenable – and most notably – an instrumental art-form with no vocals. Refreshing on that point alone. The quartet provided driving 8th note rhythms and triadic harmonies – lots of minor keys – with true rhythm guitar, and lead guitar functions. The melodies were great and the constant form changes kept it engaging. After a satisfyingly modest hour set they bid adieu.
The Camermen, a trio with just bass and guitar took some time to come on but I was able to stay for a few songs. Todd woke the room up with a single test of the snare drum like being struck by lightning. Probably the most memorable note of the evening. It always amazes me how a great musician can imbue a single sound with their entire being. It was unmistakable.
The music was everything you might expect if Chris Dyas wrote Surf Rock: expertly crafted, beautiful sounds, ticking all the boxes of what might make traditional Surf Rock, but with unusual and unique twists and turns to make it completely original. Effortless. The bass amply filled the functions of bass and rhythm guitar giving a more stripped down sound than the quartet.
Our friend the door guy made himself known again after a couple songs and yelled at the band to turn down, and then angrily closed the doors to the back room. In truth, they weren’t any louder than the first band, but good music can irritate the diseased soul.
As the witching hour approached I made an unobtrusive exit to wend my way back home through the homeless and wealthy.
As a somber coda, Todd’s father, the Original Captain, passed while Todd was in flight to Florida. RIP